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copyright as an invitation for creativity…

September 21, 2011


using legal collage elements

hi friends. i had a few questions about copyright when it comes to collage after this little proclamation. i must confess, i am not expert. not by any means! but i have drastically changed the way that i use collage, stamps and stencils in my art. the majority of what i use now is vintage book pages (usually over 100 years old), love letters that my grandma and grandpa wrote to each other that have been scanned and printed, and my own painted papers. i love that the paper that i use now is legal and i have no fears of getting into trouble.

for more specific questions that you might have, this website provides some great information in regards to copyright. it’s by far the most educational website i have found. my friend dana pointed it to me. thanks friend!

so i thought it might be fun to give you some other alternatives to using copyrighted material in your art, a few that i hadn’t thought of before.

  • check your grandma’s house, especially if they were around during the great depression. they saved everything. ask if you can have old letters or cards or anything handwritten. handwriting was so beautiful back then! scan them and print them out.
  • use your old journals or grocery lists. again if you don’t want to use the actual paper, scan it.
  • look for your old childhood homework, artwork or writing assignments. my mom saved a spattering of some of my old class work.
  • handwritten letters. do you have any letters that you have saved from a good friend? what about old love letters?
  • your child’s writing or artwork. i have used my daughter’s paintings in my art before.
  • receipts, we all have a plethora of them around. what if you used them in your art?
  • your own photography. go around your city and take pictures of old buildings, house numbers, interesting shapes and anything else that you find interesting. there are tons of ways now to make your photographs look old or funky.
  • like i said before, paint your own papers. or design a graphic on your computer to print out if you are good at that kind of thing.
  • make your own stamps. there are great materials out there to carve your own stamps. but if you are on a budget, just carve up a potato and do some good ole potato stamping. just like in kindergarten.
  • old bills, medical papers or anything you have filed that you don’t need to keep around anymore. if you can find older papers like from your parents or grandparents, even better.
  • your own doodles. sometimes the free absent minded doodles, like when you are on the phone talking to your friend, make really great collage elements.
  • solid colored fabric. you would be surprised how adding a few strips of solid fabric in a pattern can add amazing color and depth to your pieces.
  • textured fabric. burlap. linen. raphia. cardboard. anything with texture.
  • drop cloth papers. place paper down on your work surface when you are painting. after they are messy from whatever you are painting, use them as collage elements in your art. a little trick i learned from roben marie.
  • block printed papers. block are easy to find in most art supply stores. carve your blocks with simple kits into whatever pattern you want. print your own papers with your own pattern.
  • make your own stencils with overhead projector sheets or contact paper. draw out your design and then cut with an exacto knife.
  • use old family photos. choose your favorite memories or scenery pictures. chances are, you have tons of them at your disposal. just scan them into your computer and print them out. simple and easy. you can easily change around the image in photoshop or paint over it if you want to.
  • tickets from a ballet, ball game, air plane ride.
  • subway flyers, or city maps
  • nature elements, leaves, pressed flowers
  • letter envelopes that you get in the mail.
  • use paint store swatches from your local home repair store.
ok i think i will stop there. really the opportunities are endless!!! it’s all just a big invitation for you to get more creative with your artwork. when you make a choice to open your eyes, you will find things all around you to use in your art. if you have any other ideas, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
my last piece of advice when it comes to copyright is to go with your gut. when you truly stop and listen to your intuition i am sure you will find the answers you are looking for. it’s all about the spirit of honoring other artists. i am sure that you would want other people to do the same for you.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2011 10:19 am

    Great ideas! You can also find public domain images online or in old books (published before 1923 is what I read on wikipedia) and use them legally in the US.

  2. September 21, 2011 11:56 am

    great list – SO many options i hadn’t thought of! thanks!

  3. September 21, 2011 10:43 pm

    I enjoyed reading your ideas for collage. One time I used a full stanza of a poem on a painting, and I did actually write to the publisher and get permission, however I asked for it as a personal piece (not for sale).

  4. October 12, 2011 9:54 pm

    I love the list. I just might make my new secret project to collect these kinds of resources. THanks for sharing!

  5. October 18, 2013 12:43 pm

    Had you thought of having nests of different tables for a coffee table?
    In my college apartment, since it was very tiny, I was making use of them constantly and they are amazing

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